JONESBORO — Members of the local AFSCME union at Tamms Correctional Center joined elected officials and community members to protest Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed closure of the prison.
The protest occurred Thursday at the Jonesboro town square and included speeches from state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and Union County State’s Attorney Tyler Edmonds.
Turnout was excellent despite the rain, said Toby Oliver, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He said the prison takes some of the most dangerous criminals and is a “safety valve for the entire (Illinois) system.”
Retired Warden George Welborn assured the staff that the state is better off with the work that they do.
“People simply don’t know what you do on a daily basis,” Welborn said.
Forby said closing the facility will not save the state money, and the prison is necessary to keep the worst of the worst behind bars. He criticized Quinn, saying that cuts always start in Southern Illinois and that the only way to fix the economy is to create more jobs. He told the protestors to keep voicing their opposition and, “This is a fight we’re going to win.”
Edmonds agreed the prison is essential. He said cuts should not take place in prisons or in law enforcement, referring to the planned closures of the Illinois State Police crime lab in Carbondale and the consolidation of several state police communications centers.
“We have to tell the governor that prisons and state police are not the place to balance this budget,” Edmonds said.